What’s the business plan for computing in the future?

November 30th, 2015

Back 40+ years ago one of my college professors told me that we would get to the point where software cost more than the computers it was running on. That seemed a stretch back when computers were in the $375,000 and up (way up) price range. But of course he was right. Things change though and software is getting less expensive. A lot of people these days use Free Open Source software for computers.. Even with what I pay for software (Office 365 mostly) the cost of that software is low enough that I probably pay more for the computer. So maybe some people (at least as consumers) pay more for computer hardware than software.
We seem to be at the edge of a new huge drop in hardware prices though. Make magazine recently ran an article comparing sub-$10 dollar computers Of course to make them work as development machines you need to add more money but the real under $100 computer is clearly coming. It sure does sound great.
And then what? Everyone has a cheap computer. No one wants to pay for software. What is the incentive to do more development?
If you can’t make good money selling computers (thin margins, saturated market) who wants to spend money developing smaller cheaper computers? It’s not like you can make money on disposable accessories like ink cartridges which is where printer companies make most of their money. With all most everything you need in software on the Internet local performance becomes almost a complete non-issue so maybe you don’t need a faster computer.
How do you make a living off of giving software away? Support contracts? Those are no different from paid subscriptions which many people object to.
Ah, advertising! That’s been “the answer” for making money on the Internet. Will that work? Oh please no. There is too much of that already. At least for me. Others may disagree.
We’re in a race to make computers and software less expensive. Great for people looking to buy or use either of those items. Possibly not so good for people looking to make money. If there is no money to be made who will make the hardware/software people want?

The Loneliness of the Windows Phone Developer

October 20th, 2015

Earlier today I wrote an application for my Windows Phone. I posted about it on Facebook and included the comment that it was not generally useful meaning that it was not ready for people other than me to use. My son replied with a comment that it was not generally useful because it was a Windows Phone app. Sadly he has a point.

Several years ago promoting Windows Phone development was part of my job. Back then I would have taken the things I learned writing this app and written a blog post about it. I would have wanted to encourage people to use it with their students. These days no one is paying me to promote Windows or any other sorts of phones. If I thought there were people interested in doing Windows Phone development I’d still write the post to be helpful. But I doubt there are a whole lot of teachers in that state. Few students have Windows Phones. Almost all of my students have smart phones with iPhones being the largest representation. Android is close second. Windows Phones are very rare. So not much point it teaching WP development.

That makes me a little sad. Not because I am a huge Microsoft fan boy (though I sort of am) but because development in Windows Phone is so much easier than iPhone development. Windows Phone is in many ways ideal for teaching because of ease of development and the great Visual Studio IDE. You can do some fun development in App Inventor for Android but that is not quite like higher level programming development. And yet the market demands iPhone and Android development have a much higher priority than Windows Phone development.

I really like the User Interface on the Windows Phone. I am not a fan of the Android and iPhone interfaces. And of course you know how I feel about the development environments. On the other hand I am starting to miss some of the apps that are available for iPhone and Android phones but not for Windows Phone.  My current cell phone provider doesn’t support the Windows Phones I want to buy either. Sooner or later I suppose I’ll have to give up on Windows Phone. That will really make me sad.

Note: I wrote a blog post about writing what I call “programmer’s programs” on my other blog at Programmers vs. Idiots

Poverty/Education the Chicken and Egg Problem

October 11th, 2015

At last summer’s CSTA conference a speaker from the department of education talked about education being the answer for fixing poverty. And yet many teachers will tell you that the problem with providing a good education is poverty. It is hard for a student to learn if they don’t have enough to eat, have to work long hours to help support the family or miss out on health care for financial reasons.

Yes a good education can help people break out of poverty. We see it in literature, movies and even occasionally in people we actually know. But it is hard to get that education sometimes when you are poor.  We can’t wait for one problem to fix the other. We have to work on both problems at once.

Election 2014–What Happened in NH

November 5th, 2014

Like a lot of political junkies I’ve been trying to understand what happened and what it means in yesterday’s election results. These are my unscientific thoughts and observations.

Senator Shaheen won reelection in a close contest. I always expected her to win. Where I went wrong was thinking she was more popular than she turned out to be. She was helped by several things. One is of course money – she had more of it than Scott Brown did. By a lot. I think she got very lucky that her involvement in the IRS scandal over conservative groups came out too late to help Brown. And then there is of course Brown himself. He never shook the “carpetbagger” label for one thing. For another some activist groups, gun rights for example, never really trusted him to do better than Shaheen. Not that they would vote for Shaheen but they didn’t work for him with the enthusiasm they might have had he had a better record on gun rights.

One bit of irony is that the large increase in Democratic voters in NH is a result of Democrats moving into the state from Massachusetts. So in a way Brown was sort of being attacked for doing what his attackers had already done.

In the governors race my observation has been that people in New Hampshire need a good reason to replace a governor and Hassan didn’t give them an excuse and Havenstein didn’t make a good case for himself. It was a dull campaign and that favors the incumbent.

District 1 was the closest on money spent with the Republican having a bit more outside support and a bit less direct campaign money. It seems like these two keep exchanging the seat so they are both well known.  Shea-Porter being tied as a lackey of Pelosi and Obama may have made the difference here.  I wonder if another message here is that with money being equal the Republican wins in New Hampshire?

There was a big money difference (in favor of the Democrat) in the second district where the Democrat won reelection. I think the key though was a weak candidate who was easily, and successfully, attacked as too extreme.

All in all yesterday’s results in and out of NH is going to make the next election in two years even more interesting.

Smart Doors

September 19th, 2014

I’ve been thinking about what I want in a smart door. I want it to recognize me (and others authorized to enter the house) and that we want to come it. I want it to unlock itself at a minimum. If my arms are full I want it to recognize that and open for me. I also want it to hear and respond to command like “lock”, “Open”, and “Close.”

When I leave I want it to automatically close and lock unless I tell it otherwise. If I am home I want the door to recognize people I know and let me know who is at the door. If I don’t know them they should tell me at least something about who is there like how many people and gender.

If I am not there I want the door to take a message from and pictures of visitors and at least give me some images of them if there is no message.

I believe that the technology to do this exists already. I wonder if someone it working on it as a research project.

September 11 2014

September 11th, 2014

As September 11 approaches the first thing I think about is that it is the birthday of my nephew Erik Jon. Life goes on and we have to think about now and about the future. We also have to think about the people who are in our lives and what they mean to us. Erik Jon and his special day remind me of that.

Yes I think about the events of 9/11/01 as well. The faces and tears of the Ogonowski girls as they were escorted by my office after finding out about their father will probably never leave me. The worry about friends who working in the towers and about my father, senior chaplain for the NYC Fire Department that day, when I could not reach him for hours is still fresh. Thank goodness they were all safe though my father’s health was never the same after 6 weeks at Ground Zero ministering to first responders and the families of those who died.

What I remember most though is about how people cared for others afterwards. The event was created by hate but the country was better for the love that people showed to those who had lost so much.

Why I Skipped Mass Today

September 9th, 2014

I skipped Mass at school today. I’ve never done that before. Mass is of course an important event at Catholic schools and I do want to be supportive of it. But I’ve come to a point where the lack of inclusivity of the celebration of the Eucharist has become painful for me. I was raised in a Methodist church which also considers the Eucharist to be very important. In fact in the Methodist church the Eucharist is typically celebrated only monthly because it is so important. The idea I was taught was that it was too important to be taken casually or habitually so was done less often to keep it special.

I don’t have a big problem with daily Mass and Eucharist but I do have issue with the limits placed on recipients in the Catholic church. There is a line in the Mass that goes “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Apparently though not being a member of the Catholic church is not healed by this prayer. On the other hand the invitation to Communion that my father (an ordained Methodist minister) read was:

Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: Draw near with faith, and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort, and make your humble confession to almighty God.

Methodist church membership, or any church membership for that matter, was not required. That is the open Communion I grew up with and which, to me, feels more like what Christ would have (does) want. Communion is very important to me. It is probably the single most important worship event I can take part in. Being excluded while others worship in that way hurts.

The Ten Books Thing

September 8th, 2014

People have been tagging me for 10 book thinks. I tend not to have favorite books at least not in the sense that I read them multiple times. Very few get reread. So making a list off the top of my head is impossible. But I have a list – a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Not in any particular order.

Bible – Not without reason is this the best selling book of all time.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Robert Heinlein – AI computer and others rebel against the government. It’s full of libertarian ideals.

Have Spacesuit Will Travel – Robert Heinlein – This is one of his “juveniles” but the plot is wonderful. The human race is put on trial by galactic powers. There was a Star Trek (original series) episode with a similar story line but not done as well. How would you justify humanities right to live given our history?

The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas – The movies cannot hold a candle to the book. This would be a great summer reading book if you could get students to read a book this long. Revenge – right or wrong?

The Man in the Iron Mask – Dumas – Perhaps the greatest book long chase of all time.  Again, much better than any of the movies. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll worry.

The Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov – the ultimate future history novel. OK that is three books but if you read one you owe it to yourself to read all three.

Catholic Schools and the Common Good: Anthony S. Bryk, Valerie E. Lee, Peter B. Holland – non-fiction – A research project by some public school administrators about how/why Catholic schools work. Some eye opening things including that Catholic schools do a better job of dealing with racial, ethnic and religious differences in their population than public schools.

Democratic Education (Princeton Paperbacks): Amy Gutmann: 9780691009162: Books – Non-fiction. A case for public education that convinced me that public education was not such a good thing. Yes, the author’s arguments convinced me of the opposite of her position. If the goal of education is to shape society (authors position that I do agree with) I came away convinced that the government should have as little role in it as possible.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond – I love history and this is one of the most interesting and different looks at history I have read. This is one I intend to read again soon.

OK that is nine (or eleven) best I can do for now.

Top Six Must Visit US Cities

July 9th, 2014

I was reading a list of The Top 50 Cities to See in Your Lifetime. I’ve made it to six of them. And that only because they count Rome and Vatican City separately. A lot of the cities on the list are just way out of reach for most people, especially Americans who can’t drive around Europe easily. So I started thinking about what US cities were on my must visit list. I’ve been to a few more US cities. I was shooting for five but since I couldn’t rule out both Chicago and San Francisco I have six. This is my list and may not agree with everyone (or even anyone) else but its my blog so here goes.

  1. New York City This should be obvious. The largest city in the US and home of Broadway, great museums, lots of sports teams, and food and people from around the world.
  2. Las Vegas This city is unique in the US. Reno and Atlantic City have some of the same things but not on the same scale. Plus there is some wonderful desert to visit outside of the city itself. Not everyone’s cup of tea by any stretch but visiting a place outside your comfort zone can be educational.
  3. Washington DC When I brought up DV on Facebook I had a number of negative comments about it. Still I find the city fascinating with his government offices and great museums. It’s the seat of government for the most powerful nation on earth and Americans, I think, should visit.
  4. San Antonio It wouldn’t be a good list without a great American western city. Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Austin may be larger and more visited but to my way of thinking San Antonio is the city to visit if you only visit one city in Texas. The Alamo and the Riverwalk are great attractions. The people and the food may be even better.
  5. San Francisco I thought about Los Angeles and San Diego which are both pretty nice places in their own right but San Francisco is probably the most special of California cities.
  6. Chicago The Second City has a lot that NYC has but with a different, more mid western flair.

The are many other great places to visit. Philadelphia and Boston for example. They would both make a top ten list. So would Seattle. And I’d round out a top ten list with … well I’ll have to think about that one.

Who Will Remember?

June 6th, 2014

The 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion is today and getting a lot of press. As the son of a WW II veteran (since passed away) I know the stories well. We studied the war  in school, I heard stories from my father, and I read a lot about it on my own. My son, I believe, knows a good bit about it as well in part because he knew his grandfather. But will my grandson (due in September) know about it?

According to some reports (Cal Thomas: D-Day is dumb day for too many) knowledge about D-Day in particular and WW II in general is already fading from consciousness. We teach history, for the most part, as a dull series of events and dates. It is not real to people.

Stories are what people remember and we don’t always do a good job of telling stories in school. Without the stories of the “greatest generation” which they told sparingly, modestly and sometimes not at all, fresh in our lives will future generations remember the sacrifices, the suffering, the heroism or even the reasons for those traits being needed? I wonder.

Regardless, as they say up north – Je me souviens – I  remember. And my grandson will hear stories of his family from me if from no where else.